On January 2nd, most sane people are taking a fresh look at their cooking styles and thinking of ways to lighten things up a bit after the holidays. Me? I decided to tackle Macaroni & Cheese. This is one dish that has foiled me time and time again over the years. I would see a glossy picture of a delicious looking casserole dish full of macaroni goodness and I was off to the grocery store to load up on the necessary ingredients. Wonderful smells drifting from the oven while it was baking would tease me and raise my expectations only to have my dreams crushed by the reality of the dish. It was either too dry, too bland, or just too…bleh!
I was lured back to the Mac & Cheese challenge by a dish my friend Becca brought to our New Year’s Eve celebration at the lodge. It was everything I was looking for – cheesy, creamy, well balanced with a surprise of diced tomatoes! She was kind enough to share her recipe with me, and at first glance I was overwhelmed by the amount of cheese! And it contained Velveeta no less – something I hadn’t thought of since I was a kid. Do you remember Velveeta? You needed the special wire cheese slicer to cut it – but it made the best toasted cheese sandwiches.
Well based on my previous track record – I decided to just follow the recipe. And guess what? It turned out fabulously! I think the key to the success of this dish is the base sauce which is basically a hybrid between a béchamel and velouté – it contains both milk & stock. This lightens it up just enough, but still keeps it creamy. Of course the addition of Velveeta doesn’t hurt the creaminess factor. The only changes I will make next time is to increase the amount of tomatoes and add some chives to help cut through the cheese.
Since this is such a rich dish, I would recommend serving it as a side dish or as I did in little individual tasting cups.
Becca’s Mac & Cheese
- 1 lb. dried pasta such as macaroni or cavatappi (I prefer the cavatappi)
- 12 oz. gruyere, shredded
- 8 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
- 8 oz. white cheddar, shredded
- 1/2 big brick of velveeta (cut into 1 inch cubes)
- 4 tblsp. butter
- 4 tblsp. flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- Dash or two tabasco sauce
- 3 – 4 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 8 tblsp. butter
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°. Coat large baking dish (at least 9×13) liberally with cooking spray.
- In large bowl, combine shredded gruyere, sharp cheddar, white cheddar and cubed Velveeta. Set aside.
- Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes, drain and transfer to prepared baking dish.
- Meanwhile in large saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 tblsp. butter and then whisk in flour and continue whisking and cooking until flour is lightly browned. This is important, so you don’t end up with a “raw flour” taste. Then whisk in milk and broth. Add worcestershire, dry mustard and tabasco. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until sauce is nicely thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning and add salt & pepper to taste.
- Pour sauce evenly over noodles. Add cheese and sprinkle diced tomatoes evenly over the top. With a large spoon, gently stir so everything is evenly distributed and all noodles are covered.
- In small saucepan, melt remaining 8 tblsp. butter and mix in bread crumbs. Spread evenly over top of casserole and then grate 1 cup parmesan over the top.
- Cover lightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.
TIP: For even better results, cover and refrigerate overnight BEFORE adding breadcrumbs & parmesan cheese. Remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature before proceeding.